S01 Ep05 (4 of 4) - Getting into the Head and Heart of Maestro John Morris RussellSpecial Guest: The great Maestro John Morris Russell and I finish off by looking at some of the giants of conducting. Mr. Russell also goes into great detail to explain the conception, some believe, that Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern painted music into a corner.
PLEASE LISTEN TO PODCAST WITH ARTICLE.
Bartók, Béla Viktor János / Concerto for Orchestra – Fritz Reiner; Chicago Symphony Orchestra (RCA Victor LM-1934) – This is a truly amazing Symphonic record. This highly sought after LP has been talked about since the day it was released in 1956. An interesting side note to this, Bartok’s final work; in the Concerto for Orchestra’s (fourth movement), called Intermezzo interrotto is known as being a scathing political statement about Shostakovich’s Symphony No.7. Bartok was infuriated at the media attention Shostakovich’s Symphony No.7 (Leningrad) got from Arturo Toscanini conducting it on July 19, 1942 (in fact it became so famous that Shostakovich landed on the front cover of Time Magazine) 1,2(Another recording to look for is London Symphony Orchestra; Antal Dorati on Mercury Living Presence).3
Bach - Suite No.3; Vivaldi / Violin Concerto in B Flat (US premiere); Handel / Concerto Grosso in B Minor Op. 6, No12; Bach-Respighi / Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (Concert of November 22, 1947) – Arturo Toscanini; NBC Symphony Orchestra (the Arturo Toscanini Society ATS 1041) – Speaking of Toscanini, we have this recording of the Maestro conducting his famous NBC Symphony Orchestra on November 22, 1947. I doubt many people today know that Arturo Toscanini was the superstar of his time (he was the Radiohead and the Beatles of his time). His recordings were broadcast across the world; loved by all and idolized by the critics. The Arturo Toscanini Society records come from a private non-profit club based in Texas that offered it’s members five or six records a year for $25-a-year membership fee. The recordings themselves are taken from “unauthorised” (never before released) recordings of live material that dates from 1933 to 1954.4
Tubin, Eduard / Symphony No.9"Sinfonia semplice"/Estonian Dance Suite/Toccata– Neeme Järvi; The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (BIS LP-264) – Like a lot of the great composers Tubin got inspired with traditional Folksongs (Dvorak “Slavonic Dances”, Brahms’s “Hungarian Dances”). In fact it was Bela Bartok and Zoltán Kodály’s great Hungarian arrangements that sent Tubin off to capture some of his own Estonian folk music. Neeme Jarvi who is Estonian himself, no doubt grew up listening to these folk tunes and is right at home with this beautiful music. Look for his Symphony No.5 in B Minor if you can find it.
Stravinsky, Igor / Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King) – Igor Stravinsky; Chorus and Orchestra of the Opera Society of Washington (Columbia Masterworks MS 6472) – Arguably the most important person in music of the 20th Century; Stravinsky has created a body of work that both provoked and shaped what was to come for the next hundred years. Though twenty or so of his best works are hard to classify, this Russian born composer/conductor/pianist composed at least four operas; Oedipus Rex was his third.5 This powerful opera is unique in that it is part music and part poetry (narration) and is considered one of his most compelling theatre pieces in his catalog.6 Based on an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex was written at the beginning of what came to be known as Stravinsky’s neo-classical period. This recording took place near the end of Stravinsky’s life. Stravinsky himself conducts in this recording.
Boulez, Pierre / Le Marteau Sans Maitre; Stockhausen, Karlheinz / Nr.5 Zietmasse (for five woodwinds)- Robert Craft (Columbia Masterworks ML 5275) – Stockhausen’s Zeitmaße (Time Measures) for Five woodwinds(1955–56) is number 5 in his personal catalog’s output (the first of his three wind quartets). In August of 1955, while Stockhausen was on a retreat in Paspels, Switzerland he received a message requesting him to write a short composition. According to documentation (Stockhausen and Frisius 1989, 320) shortly after this message arrived he had a moment of inspiration and was able to get a major theme to the piece completed that evening. As the title suggests (Time Measures), the composition is based on complex conceptual ideas that he was working on based on music and time. Stockhausen developed complex “time measures” which uses the concept of a twelve-step duration series (from my understanding, uses 5 different tempos).7 The concepts are way over my head, but I do love his music. Give it a listen if you come across it.
Schoenberg, Arnold / Verklärte Nacht; Transfigured Night; Variations for Orchestra Op.31 – Herbert von Karajan; Berliner Philharmoniker (Deutsche Grammophon 2530 627) - Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian conductor and is considered by some to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. It is undisputed is that he had one of the largest outputs ever and was one of the top selling artist of all time (having sold an estimated 200 million records). That said, he wasn’t universally loved by everyone. Not only did Karajan have Nazi ties and had a reputation of being an all-controlling dictatorial style conductor but he is credited with conducting the first recording ever to be commercially released on CD (on Deutsche Gramaphon in 1980). Yet, love him or hate him, this digital-loving-Nazi was the first musician to bring us the compact disc.8 Thanks buddy.
Austin, Larry Improvisations for Orchestra & Jazz Soloists; Feldman, Morton Out of “Last Pieces” Improvisations by the Orchestra; Ligeti, Gyorgy Atmosheres – Leonard Bernstein New York Philharmonic (Columbia Masterworks MS 6733) – Morton Feldman is questionably my favourite modern composer of all time. He came from the New York School of composing along with John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown. His music is usually slow, rhythmic, and seems to almost float in the air. In Out of “Last Pieces” like much of his work, the pitch and the entrance are left to the discretion of the individual performer. So radical was his ideas that he actually invented a new system of notation (in this case graph paper). That said, probably the most challenging pieces on this record is “Improvisations by the Orchestra” where the entire composition is composed at the moment of the recording. I’m sure energy was high with Leonard Bernstein and the members of the New York Philharmonic that night. Not that uncommon of a record, and a great one to have.
Boulez, Pierre / Le Marteau Sans Maitre; Livre pour Cordes - Boulez, Pierre; Yvonne Minton; Ensemble Musique Vivante; Strings of the New Philharmonia Orchestra (Columbia QAL 32160) – Pierre Boulez has been both a leading figure in conducting and composition. He has directed some of the leading symphony orchestras and is particularly famous for his impeccable interpretation of 20th Century music. He trained under Oliver Messiaen and fell in love with the atonal surrealist music of Anton Webern around the same time as these teachings. He joined the controversial post-WW2 “Darmstadt School” (with fellow members - Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, and Karlheinz Stockhausen); the group Drew inspiration from studying the radical teachings of Webern and Varèse, and Olivier Messiaen (though he had distanced himself from that School’s radical teachings). Written between 1953 to 1957, Le Marteau Sans Maitre (Hammer without a Master) is considered one of Boulez’s greatest masterpieces. The work incorporates “total Surrealism” with other elements of modern music like Jazz, Balinese Gamelan, Traditional African and Japanese music.9, 10, 11 This recording is of him conducting his own work in quadraphonic sound. Quadraphonic sound might not have caught on but, the recording is still kind of cutting edge to most listeners.
Stockhausen, Karlheinz / Gesang der Jünglinge (literally "Song of the Youths")/Kontakte – Electronic Studios of West German Radio, Cologne (Deutsche Grammophon 138 811) – What do you call the guy who inspires all the people who end up inspiring the rest of the world? Well I call that guy Karlheinz Stockhausen. Who but a man like Stockhausen could inspire Miles Davis to do his most controversial and radical album ever: “On The Corner.” 12 In fact, this particular record by DG inspired the Beatles when they were making ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Revolution 9’ and all their crazy avant-garde sounds and tape-manipulations on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” What set Stockhausen apart from other composers at the time was that he was the first composer to fully take electronic music seriously. Sounds easy enough, simply being the first, right? But in order for Stockhausen to make “Gesang der Jünglinge” when he did (1955-56) with the technology available to him, he needed to think like no composer who had come before. It was originally recorded in 5-channel-sound; this labour of love was put together by using a pulse generator, volume meter, and a feedback filter. He spent six months to produce 13 minutes and 14 seconds of valuable sound.9 Gesang der Jünglinge is often called “the first masterpiece of electronic music.” 13
Williams, John / Star Wars Original Soundtrack – John Williams; The London Symphony Orchestra (20th Century-Fox 2209-541) – You often find that the great composer come along at the same time as great technological inventions (whether new instruments or new manufacturing processes). Since the advent of film (moving pictures), Movies have had the longest (and arguably the largest) cultural impact on our lives so far. The composers of these soundtracks to these movies have etched catchy and memorable tunes ever since “The Jazz Singer.” Of these movie soundtrack composers, John Williams stands out as having composed and conducted some of the biggest and most memorable soundtracks ever in the history of film. In fact one could say that he has been not only “the” most memorable composer but the most important classical composer of the second half of the last Century. His use of what is called “leitmotiv”14, 15 is legendary. An example of his “leitmotiv” is when you think about how people living today think of sharks (invariably they think of “Jaws”). But one of his greatest compositions has to be his Star Wars soundtrack. This was a turning point in musical history; when John Williams took music and inspiration from all the greatest classical composers of the past 200 years and boiled it down into something that was as radical as Star Wars special effects (at the time) within this giant of a movie. He alone sealed the coolness factor of large orchestras, and washed away some of the elitist stigma that classical music carries. I recommend pulling this album out again and listening to it with fresh ears.
- Jason Hoffer
Next Week’s Guest: Ray Price
For all you music fans out there,especially you country music fans, in my next podcast I talk to the legendary country star RAY PRICE! In this two part podcast we (Ray Price and I) will discuss his career, starting off with how one of his best friends (Hank Williams) got him his first start at the Grand Ole Opry. We talk about how he fronted the Drifting Cowboys after Hank Williams' death and how the Cherokee Cowboys came to be. We go into all the people he helped along the way (including aiding Willie Nelson’s career!). He is unquestionably one of the kindest and classiest guys I've ever had the honour of talking with. Tune in to hear why the big country stars of the 1960-70’s can’t be matched.
I just started tweeting this last week (@goingthruvinyl) and I have to say I had really had a really warm reception on it (so thank you to all who added me). One fun and cool article I saw was from @exfm and the guys at @flavorpill. In the tweet it had a link to a cool article on what Record Stores looked like in the 60’s. http://flavorwire.com/213146/what-record-stores-looked-like-in-the-1960s Check it out.
Following up the story I posted about the London riots, particularly the destruction of the record warehouse and the millions of vinyl records inside, it appears the attack may have been deliberate and targeted by professional criminals. It was a well organized attack where the criminals drove into the guarded compound with a fleet of vans and, I’m guessing, stole tons of inventory (though I’m just guessing on that point)(but what do criminals do with a fleet of vans when they set out to torch a warehouse?) Also, it looks like Sony Music have stepped in to help the small independent record labels affected by the fire. Way to go Sony! Read this Dangerous Minds article: http://www.dangerousminds.net/comments/was_the_london_sony_warehouse_fire_a_heist/
1 HYPERLINK "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu7YyUhStzY" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu7YyUhStzY 2 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concerto_for_Orchestra_(Bart%C3%B3k)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concerto_for_Orchestra_(Bart%C3%B3k) 3 Gramophone’s Classical Good CD Guide 2002, Haymarket Magazines Limited 2001 page 85 4 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Toscanini" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arturo_Toscanini 5 The Penguin Opera Guide, Amanda Holden, Penguin Books, 1995, page 395 6 Gramophone’s Classical Good CD Guide 2002, Haymarket Magazines Limited 2001 page 961 7 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitma%C3%9Fe" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeitma%C3%9Fe 8 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_von_Karajan" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_von_Karajan 9 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Boulez" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Boulez 10 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmstadt_School" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmstadt_School 11 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_marteau_sans_ma%C3%AEtre" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_marteau_sans_ma%C3%AEtre 12 HYPERLINK "http://mq.oxfordjournals.org/content/76/4/502.extract" http://mq.oxfordjournals.org/content/76/4/502.extract 13 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlheinz_Stockhausen" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlheinz_Stockhausen 14 Leitmotiv is a piece of music that has reoccurring themes, associated with a particular idea, place or character within a play or this case film. 15 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitmotif" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitmotif